ANTI-coalmining campaigner Jonathan Moylan has narrowly avoided jail for instigating a hoax that temporarily wiped more than $300 million off Whitehaven Coal’s sharemarket value.
The 26-year-old was sentenced in the Supreme Court in Sydney yesterday to 20 months’ jail, but immediately released on a $1000 bond and the condition he be of good behaviour for two years.
In January last year, Moylan issued a fake press release under ANZ’s letterhead saying the bank had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan facility to Whitehaven Coal.
The loan was to help Whitehaven Coal construct its controversial $767 million coalmine at Maules Creek and prompted panicked investors to immediately offload the stock.
In handing down the sentence, Justice David Davies said it was an “unusual” and “unique” case because Moylan had not sought to gain financially from the ruse.
Instead, he said, Moylan’s actions, which were carefully planned and premeditated, were to generate publicity surrounding ANZ’s support for mining projects
“You did it for motives that I accept were sincerely held by you even though your methods of achieving them were wrong,” Justice Davies said.
Moylan, who was greeted by dozens of cheering and clapping supporters when he emerged from the court, apologised to investors for his actions, but not his activism.
“I’ve always been willing to face the consequences of my actions and I know that in the future more and more people will face prison sentences for environmental activism,” the campaigner, who pleaded guilty to one count of disseminating false information to the sharemarket in May, said.
His barrister, Robert Sutherland SC, said justice had been served as Moylan did not deserve to go to jail.
“He’s learned a big lesson and I’ve got no doubt that he will protest as far as he can within the confines of the law and we were confident of keeping him out of jail and I’m very pleased that we have been able to do that,” he said.
Maules Creek farmer Rick Laird, who travelled to Sydney to show his support, said Moylan’s actions had brought publicity to the plight of local farmers opposed to the coalmine.
“Jono is a young man of great principle and conviction and we are incredibly grateful for the stand he took to support Maules Creek,” he said.
“We have been fighting this mine for years, but what Jono did means the world knows what is happening to Maules Creek farms and the Leard State Forest.
“To most people ANZ is just a bank, but to our community at Maules Creek their loan to Whitehaven Coal threatens to put an end to 150 years of farming in the region.”
A Whitehaven Coal spokes- man told The Leader that it would not be commenting on Moylan’s sentence.